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34. Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he plans to take to increase public awareness of the state second pension; and if he will make a statement. [45048]

Mr. McCartney: The state second pension reformed the state earnings-related pension scheme (SERPS) on 6 April 2002. It will boost the additional state pension entitlement of 14 million low and moderate earners. Additionally, for the first time two million carers and two million people whose working lives are disrupted by long-term illness or disability will also benefit as a result of the reforms in that they will be able to build up entitlement to the state second pension.

Most people will benefit automatically from the state second pension without having to do anything new or different. Our publicity activity therefore focuses on the group who may not automatically start building up state second pension and may need to take appropriate action. We aim to encourage carers to check their circumstances now. We have produced a new leaflet and started a programme of activity to inform relevant groups, which includes press advertising. In addition, we included a

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message in the child benefit uprating letter, are revising existing leaflets, and we are sending copies of the new leaflet to advisers.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the additional cost of the basic state pension would be in (a) 2010, (b) 2020, (c) 2030, (d) 2040 and (e) 2050 if the inflation rate were (i) 2 per cent. and (ii) 1.5 per cent. in one year out of every two, and (A) 2.5 per cent. or more in the other years and (B) 2.5 per cent. each year. [41195]

Malcolm Wicks: Additional cost to basic state pension if in one year out of every two the inflation rate were:

£ billion

2 per cent. inflation1.5 per cent. inflation


1. Figures are gross cost for GB rounded to the nearest £50 million.

The basic state pension is to be uprated by the greater of 2.5 per cent. or RPI, and so (A) and (B) would not affect expenditure in real terms.

Mr. Flight: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people he expects to contract back into SERPS/the state second pension over the next 10 years from (a) personal pension schemes and (b) final salary occupational pension schemes. [44684]

Maria Eagle: No such estimate has been made. The decision to contract out of SERPS/state second pension is a matter of personal choice.

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has for the future of the basic state pension. [45910]

Mr. McCartney: The Government believe that the basic retirement pension should remain the essential foundation of income in retirement.

We increased rates last April by £5 a week for single people and £8 a week for couples and from April 2002 there will be further increases of £3 a week for single people and £4.80 for couples. In future, the state pension will rise by at least 2.5 per cent, or the September rate of RPI, whichever is the higher.

Poverty Initiatives (Westminster)

35. Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many area-based city of Westminster poverty initiatives are administered by his Department. [45049]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department believes that employment is the best way out of poverty and our Welfare to Work initiatives are helping people move into work in all parts of the country. The new deals have already helped over 600,000 people into jobs, including over 700 in the hon. Member's constituency.

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We do recognise that there are some geographical areas that lag significantly behind the national average in terms of work outcomes. The departmental neighbourhood renewal strategy aims to improve the aggregate employment rate for the 30 local authorities with the poorest initial labour market position. The City of Westminster is not one of these 30 areas and so we are not currently administering any area-based poverty initiatives in this area. However, these constituents still have access to our range of national welfare to work initiatives available through Jobcentre Plus.

Winter Fuel Payment

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to extend the winter heating allowance to people with disabilities. [45015]

Maria Eagle: We are mindful of the needs of people with disabilities, that is why the Government have taken steps to provide help towards the extra costs that people with disabilities may have, through Disability Living Allowance and the disability premiums in income-related benefits. This could include heating costs. Most people over 60, including many who are disabled, are entitled to winter fuel payments.

Age Discrimination

Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to introduce legislative proposals to tackle age discrimination. [45028]

Mr. McCartney: Ageist employment practices are bad for employers, older workers and society. The cost of the fall in employment of the over 50s is estimated to be in the range of £16 billion to £31 billion per year in lost gross domestic product. The Department for Work and Pensions is promoting the business case for non-ageist employment practices to all employers and individuals across Great Britain through our Age Positive campaign.

The introduction of the employment-related age discrimination legislation, and the consultations on its development, are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. It is proposed that age discrimination legislation will be introduced in 2006.


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of people who have benefited from his Department's legislation on pension-sharing after divorce; and what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of this legislation. [32622]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I have been asked to reply.

My Department has been monitoring pension sharing orders made by the courts. Our records show that 367 such orders have been made since December 2000. My Department is currently evaluating the effectiveness of this legislation as it applies to divorce proceedings. I hope to be able to announce the results of this in the autumn.

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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 30 January 2002, Official Report, column 420W, what the cost of refurbishing each ministerial private office was in each year since May 1997. [37896]

Mr. McCartney: Since May 1997 no refurbishment work has been carried out in ministerial private office outside of the routine programme of maintenance, repair and renewal.

Travel to Work Costs

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reasons high travel to work costs as a ground of variation have been abolished; and what factors underlay setting the judgment rate at 8 per cent. [44432]

Malcolm Wicks: We believe that support for children must come first. None the less we recognise that there are many calls on the finances of non-resident parents. The standard percentage rates for child support maintenance in the new scheme reflect those other demands. Any attempt to reflect the specific costs of each person would lead to the reintroduction of an overly complex scheme.

The judgment rate is the statutory interest rate. It is set in England and Wales by the Lord Chancellor and in Scotland by the Lord President of the Court of Session.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the pensions awareness advertising campaign. [46461]

Mr. McCartney: The Government are committed to ensuring people are properly informed in order to make decisions about saving for their retirement and the "Pensions Education" publicity campaign is a major part of this strategy. Results so far are encouraging—since the campaign started in January 2001 it has provoked more than 1.1 million responses and almost 1.4 million information guides have been sent out. Changing attitudes towards planning for retirement will inevitably take time.

Overseas Pensioners

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of Spanish presidency proposals for an EU wide pension fund solvency test; what impact he estimates such a test would have on UK final salary pension schemes; and if he will make a statement. [48554]

Mr. McCartney: The issue of EU level solvency requirements for pension funds is being considered as part of the proposed directive on occupational pension schemes. Any impact on UK schemes would depend on the details of the requirements. We are working to ensure that the final version of the directive is consistent with UK pension arrangements.

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